ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --As Von Miller reminded listeners Wednesday, this week is a beginning, and not an end.
Sure, the players don't have to be at Dove Valley again for nearly six weeks. But they'll be given workout regimens to stay in shape during their downtime, and they'll be studying the playbook and their assignments, as well.
There'll be a bit of a last-day-of-school feel at the end of practice on Thursday. But the voluntary offseason program doesn't last as long as it used to; prior to the ratification of the current collective bargaining agreement in 2011, voluntary workouts could begin in late March and would often stretch into late June, after OTAs. Former coach Mike Shanahan sometimes didn't hold his mandatory minicamp until July, which further prolonged the process.
Now they're not on hand as long; organized voluntary work is done in less than two months. Some will even come back; Miller said he plans to return to Dove Valley before the end of the month.
Therefore Wednesday's work was crisp -- and not reflective of a team that was at the end of a long grind of workouts, as would often be the case in the recent past.
1. The best play for the offense came toward the end of practice, when Wes Welker streaked past Chris Harris and David Bruton down the seam, then grabbed a perfectly-timed Peyton Manning pass in stride for a long touchdown. While Welker is likely to get the bulk of his work on short to intermediate routes, as was the case in New England, he has shown during OTAs that he can be a viable deep threat, and with the attention that defenses have to pay to Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas on the outside, Welker could have plenty of chances to streak down the seam. Given the array of targets available to Manning, would come as no surprise if Welker's reception total declines, but his yardage per catch increases.
2. Although that shot down the seam punctuated the day, Harris did get the better of Welker and Manning, intercepting a pass during a team period. Bruton also picked off a pass down the middle during a seven-on-seven segment of practice. Harris looks quicker at reacting when the ball is thrown in his direction than he did last year; that's what working against Welker every day will do for you.
3. Running back Willis McGahee saw more work in team and seven-on-seven drills than he did Tuesday morning. That was in line with what McGahee said after his Tuesday work, when he noted that he expected to see more repetitions as minicamp progressed.
Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase bristled at the notion that McGahee would be ignored in favor of other running backs.
"Ignore him? We're not going to ignore him. I mean we're trying to get him in here, get him familiar again," Gase said. "We've had some changes in some of the things we've done on offense and he's just trying to get used to what we're doing."
4. You don't want to fall into the trap of making too many judgments about the pass rush from a no-pad, low-contact practice, but the front four did a solid job collapsing the pocket from the edge. Defensive end Jeremy Beal was particularly solid in this aspect. After spending last year on injured reserve and his rookie season on the practice squad, this training camp will be the most crucial juncture of his career. He has a chance to stick, but the position is deep.
5. Wide receiver Gerell Robinson caught a pair of passes from Brock Osweiler on Wednesday. Robinson has enjoyed a solid four weeks of work and is a dark horse to earn one of the last wide receiver spots on the 53-man roster. His advantage is the timing he has from his history with Osweiler; the two were a prolific combination at Arizona State.
Another name who leapt into the notebook with a pair of receptions from Osweiler was undrafted rookie Lamaar Thomas, who looked particularly polished in beating Mario Butler on a reception near the sideline.
Osweiler also had what has become a typical day for him, spreading the ball around and delivering it with zip. If Manning is hurt and Osweiler replaces him, there will be some adjustment for receivers; Osweiler's success is predicated more on velocity than Manning's. Manning can deliver the fastball when the need arises, but he flourishes with timing and placement, areas in which Osweiler will likely improve with time and experience.